By: Tyrone Barrozo, Columnist
Before I begin, I have a confession to make. I hate the Academy Awards. And it isn’t simply because the Oscars seem to have it out for entertainment converging with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. In short, I hate how unabashedly spineless the organization is as a whole. With all of that said, I have one more thing to confess: I am an absolute hypocrite.
I hate the Oscars, but to the same degree that people hate reality TV—I fully acknowledge that what I’m going to watch is garbage but I’m going to have a great time doing so. So, with less than a week away before the 92nd Academy Awards, I’ve decided to share my top five for the “Best Picture” category.
Do keep in mind that as a film-loving hypocrite in college, I’ve not seen all of the films nominated due to financial constraints, but I will still be including them on the list and attempt to explain myself to the best of my ability.
If my previous experience with Sam Mendes’ films are any indication, then I missed out on a really good time. Unlike previous entrants on this list, Mendes’ strengths reside in the very core of cinema—cinematography. If the aforementioned “Skyfall” was any indication, then “1917” would both be a feast for the eyes and another great work of cinema that manages to translate the adrenaline, fear, and absolute intensity of war.
“1917” has accumulated several accolades at the moment including Best Drama and Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards, and I reckon that the film still would still have a good chance at taking home an award from one of the big Oscar categories if the Academy weren’t so intent on giving out long overdue awards to actors and directors who should’ve won awards years ago.
4. “The Irishman”
With “The Irishman,” director Martin Scorsese takes all of the cinema knowledge he’s accumulated throughout his illustrious career and incorporates it in this epic crime story.
Despite the intimidating length of the film being over three hours, I never got bored when watching the film. Scorsese manages to deliver the same roguish charms and tough guy charisma throughout the film much like he did in previous projects with strong acting performances from Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and the return of Joe Pesci. But, the great surprise with this epic, in my opinion, came in the final third of the film where the audience starts to see Sheeran’s building regret and grief as he ages into late adulthood and, by the end, we truly feel how pained and lonely one person can get. And just when you start to feel for Sheeran, the story leaves you wanting more in the best way possible.
Not only is this film plagued with that pesky Netflix label, but I doubt that any Oscar voters actually watched the movie in one sitting thanks to its pretty obscene length. It certainly deserves all of its numerous nominations and I’m betting that it will take in awards for “Best Adapted Screenplay” and “Best Supporting Actor” (for Pacino).
Ranking “Parasite” at number three on this list makes me sad because, in all honesty, I believe that this is the film that deserves to take home “Best Picture.” But because I’m speaking honestly, I have no hope that “Parasite” will win due to the Oscars’ historic snubbing of international films for the “Best Picture” award (see “Roma”).
Watching this film was a fulfilling and completely satisfying experience. Writer and director Bong Joon-Ho seems to deliver nothing short of near-perfection with this work of art. Take aim at actor performances, cinematography, general storytelling and you will not find a weak aspect. “Parasite” is a film that constantly keeps you guessing, is a feast for the eyes, commands deserved attention, and manipulates audience emotions like marionettes.
While I continue to grieve the low chances of “Parasite” winning “Best Picture,” I am completely convinced that the Academy will award the film with an Oscar with “Best Director” as consolation for what will undoubtedly be another robbery.
2. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Remember when I mentioned that the Oscars this year would be giving out long overdue awards? Well, I’m certain that “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is going to earn Quentin Tarantino his first Oscar for “Best Director.”
Not only does this film check off the “Film about film” box much like “La La Land” and “The Artist” from years before, but “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is genuine love letter to bygone era in full Tarantino fashion (albeit with two too many feet shown on screen). There’s great comedy chemistry between Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio who are both nominated for awards, there’s good old-fashioned ultra-violence, and everything’s generally a good time.
Is this truly the best film of 2019? I’m inclined to say no. But that’s the thing with the entertainment business—sometimes being the best doesn’t matter.
Like the last entry on this list, this film also has the advantage of having Joaquin Phoenix star in it, another phenomenal actor who has been snubbed multiple times and is due for a proper win. With that said, Phoenix gave a great performance to Arthur Fleck, a character that, from a technical point of view, seems to build upon previous incarnations of disturbed individuals in cinema much like Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver,” one of a few films seen as an influence for “Joker.” Aside from the Phoenix carrying the movie on his back, the chilling score by Hildur Guðnadóttir continues to haunt me as I’m writing this blurb, breathing life and painting an atmosphere for an unforgiving Gotham City.
I have no doubts that this film wins at least one award, it certainly has a good chance of stealing “Best Original Score.” “Joker” was a great time at the theater, but I find it very funny that Joaquin Phoenix’s best chance at winning an Oscar wasn’t when he was making a killing with original scripts and roles—but with one of the most commercialized and worn out characters in fiction in the last decade. My only wish for Phoenix in this situation was wishing that he’d gotten the award back when he was nominated for “The Master,” but I suppose this is a case of “better now than never.”